The pond was sitting on the toilet, as the pond often does, reading an old New Yorker, as the pond always does, brooding about Evan Osnos's excellent portrait of Chinese emperor Xi Jinping in The New Yorker, which happily for the moment is outside the paywall and is available online in full here.
A couple of lines leapt out at the pond:
...The son was too young to be an official Red Guard, and his father’s status made him undesirable. Moreover, being born red was becoming a liability. Élite academies were accused of being xiao baota—“little treasure pagodas”—and shut down. Xi and the sons of other targeted officials stayed together, getting into street fights and swiping books from shuttered libraries. Later, Xi described that period as a dystopian collapse of control. He was detained “three or four times” by groups of Red Guards, and forced to denounce his father. In 2000, he told the journalist Yang Xiaohuai about being captured by a group loyal to the wife of the head of China’s secret police:
I was only fourteen. The Red Guards asked, “How serious do you yourself think your crimes are?” “You can estimate it yourselves. Is it enough to execute me?” “We can execute you a hundred times.” To my mind there was no difference between being executed a hundred times or once, so why be afraid of a hundred times? The Red Guards wanted to scare me, saying that now I was to feel the democratic dictatorship of the people, and that I only had five minutes left. But in the end, they told me, instead, to read quotations from Chairman Mao every day until late at night.
Then the pond remembered a long forgotten feud between filmmakers Jean-Luc Godard and Francois Truffaut, around the time that Godard jumped the shark and became a French Maoist. Truffaut might have been making bad films, but Godard stopped making films altogether, and instead began making slogans, silly mindless sloganeering in lieu of actual content.
Some loyalists tried to stay with him - perhaps in memory of his early days - but he'd jumped the Maoist shark, into the shallow waters of banishment and childish petulance and all the rest of the diseases that afflict small-minded ideologues.
So what's all that got to do with Australia, right here, right now?
Well for starters, the end product of Maoism is a China that Mao wouldn't recognise, led by a man Mao would despise as his successor emperor.
But more importantly the country is now in the hands of a man, and an office, that operates like the Red Guard.
First there's the endless simple minded slogans, and now there's the childish, petulant bannings and banishment ...
Now the pond should admit up front that the pond would never, not in a zillion years be asked to appear on Q and A, but if indeed asked, it would be a zillion years before the pond agreed to appear ... on the basis that the pond can't stand the heat that's routinely generated, and the singular absence of any policy light.
But anyone who has watched the program knew that years ago, and it didn't stop Liberal and National politicians lining up.
So what's Barners' excuse for the no show?
Say what? It's because the PM told him to?
Talk about a knackered ram, talk about a naked crutching.
Perhaps it had something to do with Barners' wretched appearance yesterday on The Insiders, trying to sell his dog of an agricultural policy, more poodle than working dog.
The hapless wretch got caught up on climate change, and then gay marriage.
What he should have said was a simple "I believe marriage is between a man and a woman, and now I'd like to talk about our exciting new agricultural policies", and deflected any further questions, but truth to tell, Barners is just a small town accountant, promoted on the Peter principle to an office where more's needed than blokiness and a beer in the front bar ...
The man is dumb - no wonder there was talk of needing to cleanse the policy paper of bizarre, out there ideas - and so there were good pragmatic reasons not to expose the sheep to more nipping and biting at the heels by agile working dogs used to the sport, and used to herding woolly ones into the yard for a good shearing. Narrow combs, wide combs, it'd happen in a trice ...
But how does it look in the headlines?
No wonder the pond was thinking about Maoist ideologues, mindless chanting, and the rule of emperors issuing decrees.
How stupid did they want Barners to look, walking backwards in circles and reciting slogans, because within the last 24 hours the pond had actually watched Barners say he'd appear on the show:
And there's the rub - poor Barners is just a stalking horse for an attempt to make big Mal appear just as gormless, weak and gutless.
Will big Mal defy his emperor and turn up on the broadcaser - hey, that's how Fairfax spelles it - or will he fold like a pack of Barners' cards stacked with sheepish Jokers?
The pond doesn't mind either way. Just watching the banishing, boycotting emperor and his office go about their business is endlessly fascinating, while the tremulous princelings tip toe in a way that suggests they're walking on eggshells ...
In the days following Mr Mallah's appearance on QandA, Mr Turnbull said he would continue to appear on the program even though it had made an error of judgment.
"Most of the leading figures in this building have been on the show plenty of times and from my point of view I think we are in the business of getting the message of the government across," he said. "And so we need to take advantage of every platform that's available. So I'll continue to appear on ABC programs, including QandA, if I'm invited to be there."
Couldn't be clearer, and only a few sleeps before we see how the princeling handles the emperor.
Meanwhile, sharp-eyed pond dwellers will have noted another story appended to that reptile splash about Barners, featuring Tim "Freedom Boy" Wilson.
Now the pond was in a state of extreme agitation. What to choose? Because the reptiles had also lined up this:
That's a bit cruel. Abbott?! No first name for brother Tony? She's had debates with Abbott? Well the pond routinely debates with brick walls, concrete floors and assorted tiles ...
But then there was this:
Now the pond had not the slightest clue what Wilson is blathering on about, except to parrot fundamentalists dwelling in the United States.
What neglect of preserving religious freedoms has graced this fair land? Could it be the incessant funding of religious schools, including those of the most fundamentalist creationist and Islamic kind? Could it be the funding of chaplains in schools at the expense of secular, skilled, credentialed counsellors? Could it be setting aside times in public schools so that propagandists of a religious kind could have a captive audience and spend the time warping their victims on matters sexual, social and religious?
So we's gots to know, and plunged on in, but the bracing deep end of the reptile pool revealed a couple of things.
The reptiles are so absolutely and completely entranced with their in-house pet freedom boy that they had to run, not just Wilson's story, but a hagiographic EXCLUSIVE story about their pet's column, complete with hagiographic photo of the freedom fighter waving in royal, if modest and unassuming, fashion to the crowd:
On and on went the EXCLUSIVE story, summarising Wilson's column in excruciating detail:
Was this a ploy to get readers not to bother reading freedom boy himself?
Well the pond is made of sterner stuff. Over the years we've become used to treading through reptile sludge, and so we moved on to freedom boy himself doing his best to pander to his conservative and fundamentalist constituency:
Well there's a huge amount of blather about an already given. Let's see if freedom boy's extensive reading of the doings of Republican state governors can unearth a genuine jewel or three:
Yep, there's a goody. There needs to be mutual respect on both sides, and the right of commercial service providers to unjustly discriminate should be upheld ... provided they be fair in their discrimination ...
Only in Wilson la la land would a florist build a business model out of servicing Sikh weddings, and only in that bizarro world would a sensible person would wander in to a kosher store expecting non-kosher food... unless they also routinely walked into a hardware store and demanded vegetarian sausages ...
Which goes to show that the pond can do stupid examples too ...
In reality. what Wilson is proposing is a rich extension of work for government bureaucrats patrolling a new set of anti-discrimination laws, because businesses discriminating against gays would routinely expect to have their wedding cake and to eat it too ...
There's no way, except in Wilson's la la land, that suppliers would accept their market should be narrowed, as a result of their desire to maintain a purity of conscience.
And suppliers of specific products - such as gluten free for the pond household's genuine coeliac, or fair trade products for guilty chocoholics - shouldn't be conflated with the vast bulk of small businesses who need all sorts of trades, but might be able to afford to discriminate against a relatively small clientele, perhaps the gay market in Penrith as opposed to the gay market in Surry Hills...
There would be challenges, claims of exemptions, ongoing controversies, endless jobs for bureaucrats, and plenty of Irish gay marriage cake scandals for the media to feast on ...
It would be a lot simpler for people in business not to discriminate, as sensible business leaders in the United States have pointed out to assorted Republican governors as they go about their discriminatory, prejudicial and bigoted business of providing religious freedom laws that allow people to keep on discriminating against gays ...
It's as if Wilson hadn't actually caught up on the endless controversies that have recently erupted in the USA, summarised in The Republican Party is being torn apart by the 'religious freedom' debate, but available to anyone who cares enough to google ...
But that's where pandering to your conservative, fundamentalist audience gets you ... empty slogans and useless solutions so that you can talk in Orwellian fashion about freedom, as a way of contriving that bigotry, prejudice and discrimination might continue ...
But okay, the pond will go with Wilson's suggestion ... providing he issues a clarion call requiring that school chaplain funding be abolished, along with taxpayer money being used to support religious schools ...
In your dreams, foolish pond.
But it also meant that the pond was yearning for more cake, and why not, even if it made for sad reading ...
Uh huh. So she's had robust debates and she's talked to the media and where's it got her?
In the end, the emperor Abbott isn't for changing.
You'd have to be a blind, perhaps mad, monk not to realise that Abbott is the single biggest obstacle,, the largest roadblock on the way to gay marriage. You don't have to be Penny Wong to understand this.
You just have to see the emperor standing in his clothes, decreeing, and the courtiers and princelings scraping and bowing and devising ever more abstruse schemes and arcana, blathering on about religious freedom, while the minions blather on about Asia and decadence and polyamory and...
Well perhaps there is a message coming from Asia, and that story about the Chinese emperor ...
Like many others I met this winter, He Weifang worries that the Party is narrowing the range of acceptable adaptation to the point that it risks uncontrollable change. I asked him what he thinks the Party will be like in ten or fifteen years. “I think, as intellectuals, we must do everything we can to promote a peaceful transformation of the Party—to encourage it to become a ‘leftist party’ in the European sense, a kind of social-democratic party.” That, he said, would help its members better respect a true system of law and political competition, including freedom of the press and freedom of thought. “If they refuse even these basic changes, then I believe China will undergo another revolution.”
Freedom of thought?
"Bah humbug," said the emperor, "minions, you shall not speak on the ABC's QandA. You shall boycott, discriminate, ban and banish, shun and shame and send it to Coventry."
And so it begins ... perhaps not the end of the beginning, but certainly the beginning of the end.
Roll on next Monday, and luckily there's an old Pope to conjure up big Mal's latest dilemma as the emperor turns cowboy again... (and more Pope here, in a gallery always worth browsing).